Claire has been considering her role in this men's club. Like Marino, she's caught somewhere between now and then, this and that.
"I just don't have much to do here yet," she says. "I don't know many people. And we don't want to start decorating this place because we won't be here long." She laughs. "Dan says I'll have to sit all day on the back porch at the new house holding a gun, waiting to shoot the alligators coming after Touchdown."
Carmine grins. "I told him to make it simple and just get rid of the dog and keep a pet alligator." The guys kid around, but they know things are changing. "There'll be a time when he won't be able to call us as much, and we'll only see him when he gets to Pittsburgh," says Nicky. "But we understand. We'll always be friends."
It is midweek and Marino sits in the twilight at an outdoor picnic table next to the laundry room at the Dolphins' practice facility. He made weight this morning by coming in early and sweating off four pounds.
"Hey, Billy," he yells, "how about cookin' me up a beer?"
Equipment assistant Bill Herman brings the quarterback a beer. People on the Dolphins do things for Marino because they genuinely like him. They like the way he always chases down the receiver after a TD pass and gives him a bear hug. And they like the way, as Newman says, "if he makes a mistake, he apologizes right there in the huddle." His much celebrated arrogance—"He's the only person I've ever seen who can strut standing still," says one local sportswriter—pertains to competition only, not personal relations. And that brassiness afield comes, ultimately, from self-knowledge. "I won't say the pro game is easy," says Marino. "But when you have receivers like we do, and when you emphasize the passing game, and you get time to throw, and the guys are open...for me, well, it's always been easy to complete a pass." Which is true.
In the Philadelphia game this year Marino got into a yelling match on the sideline with wide receiver Mark Clayton, after Clayton had argued with a referee and was in danger of getting a 15-yard penalty called on the Dolphins. Later Clayton said, "He gets so into the game that he may raise his voice a little. But he didn't need to tell me about my attitude. I can disagree with an official if I want." To Shula the exchange was ho-hum. Marino gets along so well with the players that the incident was more an example of a shared intensity than anything else. "I'm looking for fiery guys," says the coach.
Marino's fire has caused people to do strange things. Jim Vaccaro makes betting lines at the Barbary Coast Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, and when he made odds on the Dolphins going undefeated this year, bettors came stampeding. "When Miami had about seven games to go, I figured the reasonable odds at about 10 to one," he says. "We put it up at eight to one and people bet it down to six to one, then four to one, then two to one. I could see what had happened: Marino had captured the hearts of the public. Girls were coming to the window and betting just because it was him."
Still sitting on the picnic table, Marino laughs when he is told about his impact in Las Vegas. "Are people going to change their opinion of me if I get married?" he says. "Should I concern myself with that? I guess it depends on what kind of marketability you're looking for—the playboy image or the corporate image." He swigs his beer. He's been joking. He's not concerned about it at all.
"I'm getting married because I'm in love with a girl and want to spend my life with her. You can't live your life doing what other people want you to or you'll be miserable. At some point you just have to be yourself."